If the Ford Mondeo is the poor man's version of the BMW 3 Series then the Vauxhall Vectra is a cut-price Mercedes C Class, with its appeal based around tough build quality, a comfortable cabin and excellent refinement. The only thing missing from the mix is excitement.
Despite a heavy facelift, the Vectra still can't muster much in the way of design appeal - and behind the Astra-like front end it's pretty much unchanged anyway. Fortunately the cabin is far better, well constructed, spacious and packed with strong standard specification. A huge range of adjustment means that even the most extreme shaped drivers should be able to get comfortable, while both front and rear seat passengers enjoy plenty of space. The five-door hatchback offers a decent amount of luggage capacity - while the estate offers a van-rivalling loadspace area, especially with the rear seats folded.
Dynamically, the Vectra is unlikely to set any pulses racing. A smooth, well-damped ride and excellent refinement makes it an outstanding motorway companion, absorbing long journeys painlessly. Over more demanding country roads the slightly inert chassis responses mean that, although the Vectra remains composed at speed, the driver never feels particularly involved with proceedings.
All engines offer decent performance, from the entry-point 1.8 litre petrol upwards. The rapid 173 bhp 2.0 litre Turbo motor is worthy of particular mention, combining serious urge with surprisingly frugal fuel economy - and real performance seekers will be able to choose between a 3.2 litre V6 version and the turbocharged V6 VXR. Most punters will go for the strong range of diesel engines - with the mid-ranking 120 bhp 1.9 litre version the pick of the range for its combination of performance, refinement and economy.
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